What follows is what I have come to know for myself, based on having done a lot of research over long years. What I have also come to know is that many writings on affairs, contain a lot of midlife crisis aspects that are tied up within those descriptions. I can see where it’s easy to confuse the aspects of the midlife affair with the regular affairs that involve immature people who are often commitment phobes, and people who are on an endless search for that perfect relationship that doesn’t exist.
I also realize that explaining it, doesn’t make the pain go away, nor does it reverse the damage that occurs when one spouse cheats on the other, regardless of what reason. One last thing I know is that the left behind spouse would need to understand there is NOTHING they can do about the midlife crisis affair, except to step back, let it run its course, and decide to leave it all alone.
In my own experience, and knowledge, it is more likely that the midlife spouse, (who clearly lacks awareness of their actions, and shows deep confusion in their actions) will eventually end the affair, and return back to the marriage, than it is for a regular cheater who has full awareness of what they are doing, and even knows why they are doing it.
I can’t give a solid guarantee of whether each midlife crisis spouse will eventually leave their affair behind and return. That’s a decision that lies upon their shoulders, but I can say that I don’t think these broken people ever meant to leave their relationships behind forever. I always look for all of them to eventually try to return, and if they don’t return, there were deeper mitigating factors that affected that choice not to return.
I encourage people to get their attention OFF the midlife crisis affair, get it on themselves, and prepare for a time of waiting it out. However the waiting is proactive, rather than reactive. I’ve seen many situations where the left behind spouse didn’t listen to the advice, kept pushing, shoving, showing jealousy, anger, and even fighting with the affair partner, and that’s not attractive at all. IF you want to see if your marriage can be eventually saved, and reconciled once the crisis is finished, then you need to take that energy you’re wasting on an affair you can do nothing about, and put it someone you can do everything about—YOU.
I have seen many midlife spouses get themselves thus entangled, run away, and some may choose to marry that affair partner. However, in time, every person who commits sin is always faced with the consequences. Like the prodigal son, they come to see that what they once had is so much better than what they chose to get involved with. In time, if there hasn’t been so much damage done in the beginning by both midlife spouse, and left behind spouse, there is hope of the midlife spouse returning back, after they awaken to themselves, and what they’ve done.
I have a question about determining between MLC and exit affairs?
In a midlife crisis affair, there is a deep confusion, lack of awareness, and their running away is so unlike the person you once knew. Every long term relationship has its problems, but in spite of all of these problems, you always knew the midlife spouse was someone you could always count on. You have the cards and letters from a lifetime of marriage to prove it. Nearly all of the marital situations that seek help have been married longer than ten years.
The midlife spouse was the kind of person you would never have thought they had it in them to do what they’ve done. You seriously trusted them, because the two of you had been together for such a long time. Some of you had children, and some of you didn’t, but if someone had asked you, say, five, six years before this crisis caught your attention, if you ever thought your spouse would mistreat you, cheat on you, and abandon you, what would your answer have been? A resounding NO.
They become different during this time, the opposite of what you knew. They’re drawn to the affair partner because that person meets needs in them, that more closely connect with the emotional state of mind they are currently buried within.
But later, as the whole affair falls apart, change will happen again, and their awareness will return, once they awaken to themselves, and what they’ve done. Long before they awaken, in spite of the fact their hearts and minds are completely turned away from the left behind spouse, the midlife spouse does something that a regular cheater doesn’t usually do. They consistently seek to control the left behind spouse they have left behind, while still trying to hold onto and control the affair partner.
Not so in an Exit affair–that’s why it’s called an Exit Affair. The cheater steps outside the marriage, creates another relationship while still married, tries to make sure it’s going to work, then exposes what they’ve done to the spouse.
It doesn’t matter if the spouse throws the cheater out or not, the cheater is completely done with the spouse they’re leaving. They’re calculating, cruel, and act totally self absorbed toward the spouse they are first betraying, then walking out on. These types do NOT return because they already know when they’re setting up that next affair/relationship, they’re not coming back.
Exit affairs involve people who are clearly aware of what they are doing, and their actions are NOT confused at all. These affairs usually involve restless, and deeply immature people, who are searching for that perfect relationship that will never exist, but you can’t tell them that. Once infatuation, and the “in love” feelings die, they don’t develop the maturity necessary to grow into full commitment.
Something else I’d seen on these kinds of affairs, is that they’re more likely to be people who have engaged in multiple marriages over the years–some don’t last any longer than two to five years….and some don’t even make it to ten years.
The exit affair cheater’s expectations of a marital relationship are way too high. They’re also selfish, often deeply narcissistic, and they believe that the falling in love hormones aren’t supposed to fade, or go away. They have the idea that once you fall in love, those strong undiluted feelings of infatuation are not supposed to go away, nor fade. When normal change comes, their perception of their spouse also changes, and they will immaturely project themselves upon the spouse. It can’t be their fault–it’s the fault of their spouse for not making the effort to ensure those infatuation feelings never went away.
It’s a delusion on their part, because they are deeply addicted to the infatuation hormones that run high when a person falls in love. It stands to reason that a relationship goes through various changes, but the one who is searching for that hot and heavy, never ending, perfect relationship, either doesn’t understand, or doesn’t want to understand that every new relationship, progresses into a point where the “in love” highs are meant to fade—and it usually takes around two to three years for this to happen.
They leave a trail of broken hearts, and marriages in their wake. They judge their marriage by how they feel, rather than choose to see that love isn’t the only aspect that holds a marriage together. There is a responsibility toward their partner they have never grown into. When a baby arrives, as some people choose to have a baby that first or second year, and that brings more change, takes attention away from the immature person, and of course, regardless of what happens, things aren’t so “perfect” anymore. Then, that person goes once more on the hunt for another relationship that will recreate the feeling of falling in love, resurrect those hormones that create such a natural “high” for them. Their expectations are such that they’re not supposed to ever fall out of love.
Not going to happen, but again, you can’t tell them anything. They’re not going to listen, because in a real sense, until the Transition catches up with them, and knocks them for a loop, forcing them to finally grow up, (IF they ever grow up) they’ll continue emotionally cycling in this way. Unfortunately, some of them never grow up. The key to having a good idea of what they are and have been, if you will, is contained within their past relationships, and repetitive emotional patterns.
What makes this kind of person finally stop this hunt/search? For most of them, they get too old to do it anymore, and even though they might finally settle down, they’re still caught up in the immaturity that had driven them down this particular road for all of their lives. They’re miserable, dissatisfied, combative, and the spouse they’re married to, is clearly struggling to deal with their moodiness, depression, and past regrets. For others, well, they finally grow up, and learn to deal with the reality of life and love.
Hopefully, I’ve managed to explain the difference between an Exit Affair, and the Midlife Crisis Affair.